To the Editor:

In the wake of the Black Tuesday terrorist attacks, one question has been on everyone's minds - how should we respond to the savages who, through cold and methodical planning, have killed so many Americans? Some people have suggested that pacifism is the only proper response, and that we would be acting as terrorists ourselves if we retaliate in a manner which could lead to the deaths of innocents. To those people, one must ask - would you have us sacrifice our lives for theirs?

The terrorists intentionally targeted civilians on September 11. They seek to gain our submission through fear; thus they put on our television screens images of the Twin Towers, those magnificent symbols of the Western values which they despise, crumbling into a pile of flesh and ash. Americans love life - this life, on this Earth - and were killed for it. The terrorists hate this life, and died to prove it. If they retain access to the necessary resources, they will do so again, and the body count may be even higher.

Retaliation against the terrorists and those who harbor them is not a continuation of some vicious cycle of meaningless violence. Retaliation is the only proper action to take when faced with such an act. The United States has appeased and humored terrorists for decades, failing to act and thus giving them the time and courage they needed to build up more devastating plots. Our past inaction has already culminated in thousands of deaths. As Dr. Leonard Peikoff asked in his article "It Is Time to Declare War," published September 20th in the Washington Post, "If we do not wage a proper war now, then when? If our appeasement has led to an escalation of disasters in the past, can it do otherwise in the future? Do we wait until the terrorists unleash against us the nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons they are rushing to get hold of?"

The purpose of the military is to defend Americans against the threat of force from foreign attackers. This is a moral purpose. We now face an ongoing threat from an organization which holds as its goal the destruction of our civilization - an organization which is supported by dictatorships and theocratic tyrannies. To ensure our own safety, Clintonesque "surgical strikes" will not suffice. Eliminating the individual terrorists does not remove the threat; we must systematically annihilate the governments which support them.

Will innocent civilians be killed in the process of self-defense? Undoubtedly. Terrorists depend upon America to take responsibility for the effects of their brutality. They ask us to lay upon our shoulders the burden of their guilt, and to lie prone as they clobber us from behind a human shield. Do not acquiesce to this ethical shell game. When we attack, when we destroy the nations which sponsor terrorists, there will be blood spilled - but it will not be on our hands.

Matthew Ballin

Newmarket, New Hampshire